Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Trickster Spell List

In my last post, I introduced a Trickster base class for Pathfinder.  This class combines low-level elements of the rogue and wizard with the arcane trickster prestige class.  Though I am not the first to have created this type of hybrid, my version is particular to my current Pathfinder campaign--made for a specific player whose multi-classing placed his character behind his peers.

By crafting a new base class, it also gives me the chance to customize the class's spell list.  Like the Magus, the Trickster has a spell book that must be studied, but may only learn spells from his class list.  Spells were selected for this list base on reinforcing roguish abilities; over-the-top, flashy spells were either left our, or increased in level for this class.  As with the class itself, play-testing will likely result in modifications to this spell list. 
There has been talk among my players about creating archetypes for this class as well--but we will see what our needs are.


Acid Splash: Orb deals 1d3 acid damage.
Dancing Lights: Creates torches or other lights.
Daze: A single humanoid creature with 4 HD or less loses its next action.
Detect Magic: Detects all spells and magic items within 60 ft.
Flare: Dazzles one creature (–1 on attack rolls).
Ghost Sound: Figment sounds.
Know Direction: You discern north.
Light: Object shines like a torch.
Mage Hand: 5-pound telekinesis.
Open/Close: Opens or closes small or light things.
Prestidigitation: Performs minor tricks.
Ray of Frost: Ray deals 1d3 cold damage.
Read Magic: Read scrolls and spellbooks.
Sift: See area as though examining it.
Spark: Ignites flammable objects.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rethinking Hybrid Classes - The Trickster

Back in October, I posted about the multi-classing rules in Pathfinder. I did this because I favored the hybridizing prestige classes (Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight, Mystic Theurge) instead of the hybrid base classes from the Advanced Class Guide--and I wanted characters who followed the prestige class path to be on-par with single-class characters.  However, this "fix" has only served to make the rules more bulky--and there is too much for players--particularity new players--to remember.

On second thought, the Magus isn't a bad class.  In fact, it is better at being an Eldritch Knight than a Fighter / Wizard / Eldritch Knight.  Are there base classes that do this for the Arcane Trickster and Mystic Theurge?  Not in the Advanced Class Guide--so my distaste for the hybrid classes in that book remains.  My distaste for the concept of hybrid classes is in question, though.

In fact, hybrid classes have been a part of Dungeons & Dragons for several edition:
  • Bard = Enchanter / Rogue [originally a Fighter-Thief-Druid "prestige class"]
  • Paladin = Fighter / Cleric
  • Ranger = Fighter / Druid [originally also Wizard]
And Pathfinder has given us a few new ones already:
  • Alchemist = Transmuter / Rogue
  • Inquisitor = Cleric / Rogue
  • Magus = Fighter / Wizard

Friday, December 18, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 6: Pyramid of Arithmetic Bliss

A new name for this chapter because of the direction the players went with it.  The Garden of the Vizier's Daughter shall not be forgotten, however.
You have reported to Iban concerning Ekram's exile, and he applauds your decision as being the best course of action.  While it is true that the Order of the Medjay is above the law, it is best not to have one willing to kill the Pharaoh's own free in the Pharaoh's city.  As a reward for your service, Iban has offered you a handy haversack filled with treasures--contraband that Ekram had abandoned when he was forced to leave Peraten.

Iban also has more information about the Wati murders:  Namely, that Ekram wasn't working alone.  During their interrogations, every member of Velriana's team (including Uzoma, our portly vanara hireling) had mentioned encountering a necromancer at some point during the day in question.  As these accounts did not generally agree, the necromancer was initially assumed to be a lie meant to divert attention from Velriana's motivations.  However, casual discussions with Ekram's associates revealed that the enforcer had recently begun working closely with the Embalmer's Guild--so Iban is now willing to accept the existence of a necromancer.  With the recent disappearance of specially trained embalmers, hunting down Ekram's necromancer ally has been difficult--particularly if the Medjay are, in fact, working with the guild.

Investigating the Order of the Medjay is dangerous, and Iban is afraid that his questioning into the murders has made him a target.  However, if a necromancer was involved, then the immunity of the Medjay would not protect him.  The nobleman Oshep (the one who granted Velriana access to Wati) had previously hired a team from the Embalmer's Guild to investigate a shrine in the dead city.  The leader of this team was an alchemist named Nephethus (!).  Since Nephethus "does not have any known associates in Peraten" according to Iban, he would like someone to investigate Oshep.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Simplifying Pathfinder: More than One Attack

While running my Nefret campaign and continuing to develop/convert my Monvesia campaign, I find the sleeker ruleset of 5th Edition very attractive.  Is it possible to create the same feeling for Pathfinder?  Possibly.

One major rules redundancy in Pathfinder (which is inherited from 3rd edition), is making more than one attack during combat.  Three rules systems operate simultaneously:  two-weapon fighting, natural attacks (including secondary natural attacks), and multiple attacks.  These rules are scattered throughout the combat chapter, each confusing the next.

While these rules can be understood, they present a lot of exceptions and alternate circumstances.  The fewer circumstances you have to think about during the game--the less intrusive that the rules are--the more fun the game will be.  Therefore, I propose merging the concept of off-hand attack with the secondary natural attack.  These basics of this are:
  • As a full round action, a character may make as many primary and secondary attacks as one's level, feats, and race/species may allow.
  • A secondary attack must be made with a light weapon (unarmed strikes and natural attacks count as light weapons)
  • A secondary attack is made at -5 to the attack roll; and only one-half of a character's strength modifier (if any, rounded down) applies to damage.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 5: Into the Valley of the Princes

It has been ten days since Aloysa left for Tamisha, and now she returns to Peraten with a spotted tiger at her heals.  Unfortunately, she returns with little additional information regarding the thrice-divided soul--merely that it is a reference to an ancient empire that ruled long before the dynasties of Nefret. The elders of Aloysa's clan do not believe this empire, said to be ruled by sphinxes, to be historical fact--merely folklore relating to the Mythic Dynasty.

Upon her return, Aloysa and Kiji are approached by Ibankhkhnum, a captain of Pharaoh's guard.  He explains that he has been assigned to investigate the murder of the Wati guards (which the party had reported).  After interrogating Velriana and Uzoma, he investigated both the Wati gate and the Sanctum of the Erudite Soul.  From this, Iban has a lead as to the whereabouts of the suspected murderer.  Unfortunately, he cannot trust his own men to investigate--for the perpetrator may be a member of the Order of Medjay, a special branch of the royal guard.  As you had expressed interest earlier in assisting the investigation, Iban was hoping that he could call on the party now.

Your particular skills, he believes, will be an asset--for he is relatively certain that the murderers are hiding out in the Valley of the Princes, beyond the Pyramid of Sekh-pa-Mefer III.  Unearthed at the same time as the pyramid, the tombs in this valley remain untouched--only a few just outside the valley, in the shadow of the pyramid, have been looted.  In addition to not being able to trust his men with the identity of the murderer, he also cannot trust them not to damage history in their investigation.  An unbiased team including both an archaeologist and an inquisitor is ideal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sphinxes [Etc.] of Nefret

In Nefret, the role that would traditionally be served by dragons in other fantasy settings is instead served by Sphinxes.  Because of this, one partocular aspect of the 3.x rules needs to be modified:  Creature types.  With so few dragons and dragon-kin in the world, it does not make sense for "Dragon" to be a unique creature type.  On the other hand, the prominence of sphinxes and sphinx-kin  may benefit from the creation of a "Sphinx" creature type.
Another aspect related to this that was already changed in play was the replacement of the Draconic language with the Sphinx language where it applies to arcane magic.  Furthermore, sorcerers do not have the option of a draconic bloodline (neither a sphinx bloodline, for that matter).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 4: Risen From the Sands

A letter has arrived at the Tooth and Hookah for our party of heroes.
Dearest Companions,
It is with deepest regrets that I must take my leave from you all for an indeterminate period.   The work I have been doing for the Embalmers' Guild--of which I am not at liberty to disclose--requires me to travel to Tem-Akh.  My duties there will require my full attention.
It has been a pleasure working with you all.  I do not know when, or even if, I will be able to join you again.  Should our paths cross, I look forward to that meeting.
Rumors throughout Peraten indicate that specially trained embalmers from throughout the city (and even elsewhere) have been recalled to Tem-Akh, the old capital.  As with Nephethus, many left before giving any indication that they would be gone for some time.  Some notices included requests not to follow.  The other embalmers who remain in the city to provide funerary services either feign ignorance of the "recall," or else refuse to discuss it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 3: The Sanctum of the Erudite Soul

Lady Sebti has agreed to let you explore one more site in Wati:  the Sanctum of the Erudite Soul, a temple to the minor netjer Heka.  Her only interest, she says, is that the previous team she'd hired insisted on being allowed to explore this site.  Sebti wants to know why.

While Kiji explored non-Aten worship near Peraten, Aloya spent time in the library at the Great Temple of the Sun.  She did research into the names Heka and Imanesh (the demonic head encountered in the House of Pentheru).  The only reference to Imanesh was a list of "malignant spirits" of Duat who were counted among the servants of Apep.  For Heka, the appellation of "Activated Soul" was uncovered, as well as his iconography--the holy symbol of his faith being a knot of flax between upraised arms (the heiroglyphs used to write his name).  You have seen this symbol before--being worn as amulets by Velriana Hypaxes and her companions.

Amulet worm my Velriana Hypaxes

Heka appears to have two forms, historically:  a man choking two entwined snakes; and a child holding a flail and wearing nothing but an elaborate crown.  Heka is a minor netjer of magic and medicine--portfolios more often associated with Isis and Thoth.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nefretic Cosmology

In my Nefret campaign, the souls of gods and mortals are inexorably tied to the structure of the planes they inhabit--for every being is composed of an aspect of each plane.  With a strong culture of life, death, and afterlife, it is important to establish the details of the soul and planar cosmology early on in the campaign.  The player experience interacting with these elements needs to be consistent.

Since I know my players follow the blog, I'll also point out that the information here isn't really privileged.  This is the basic knowledge that any character with 1 rank in an appropriate skill would know.

Nature of the Souls

All beings, mortal and immortal, are composed of several souls:  a body (khat), a spirit (ka), a mind (ba), a shadow (sheut), a heart (ib), and a name (ren).  In death, these components separate--and may be transformed and/or reunited in the afterlife.

Body - Material Form

A living body and a dead corpse both share the designation of khat. After death, the the corpse may be preserved as a mummy--which can be the result of natural forces or of artificial embalming.  The khat is a mortal, decaying body born of the mortal world of Gebeb.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 2: The House of Pentheru


Pleased with your work with the Tomb of Akhentepi, Lady Sebti has asked you to explore another site in the Dead City: the house of a nobleman named Pentheru.  This estate is both the smallest and newest structure in Wati's noble quarter, and for that reason has caught the Peraten noblewoman's attention. After your last meeting with Sebti, she sent a messenger along to the Tooth and Hookah with more information.

That information is sparse, however.  What is known about this site has been gleaned from physical evidence (stone quality; outward construction; and its relative position among other estates) as well as tablets recovered elsewhere in the city by another team of explorers. The name Pentheru appears to refer to two men:  the minor noble who commissioned construction on the manor, and the nobleman's son who inherited it before construction was complete.  Evidence suggests that this family was  newly elevated to the social elite.

The House of Pentheru is nestled among larger estates in a region of Wati referred to in engravings as Vizier's Hill.  As the highest elevation of the city, it was specifically Vizier's Hill that was unearthed by the sandstorm four years ago.  The diggers who uncovered the remainder of the city did not spend much (if any) time on the Hill--so the estates here are untouched by your contemporaries.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Custom Character Sheet

Not all character sheets are created equal--for each must be built upon the needs of the campaign.  For the Nefret Campaign, I needed a sheet that incorporated Adventuring & Background skills, Hero Points, and Personal Quest.  It also eliminates XP tracking.  The result is below.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fixing Multiclassing in Pathfinder/3.x

Instead of fixing the underlying issues of character multi-classing, Paizo has instead chosen to introduce hybrid classes (Magus, Arcanist, Bloodrager, etc.)--ignoring the issue and adding needless complication to an already complex rules system.  In my Nefret campaign, I am not permitting the use of hybrid classes; instead, I am encouraging characters to pursue multi-classing in order to achieve prestige classes (such as Arcane TricksterEldritch Knight, or Mystic Theurge).

The biggest drawback of 3.x muticlassing (which is similar to dual classing of previous editions) is that the system is based on the premise that characters receive an equal power jump at each level.  However, while each hit die and related increases are relatively uniform, class abilities at each successive level are considerably more powerful. For instance, gaining access to a new 4th level spell is certainly more of a benefit than gaining access to a new 2nd level spell.  Therefore, the idea of "class level" needs to be considered in two parts:  class hit die and class ability level.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Nefret, Chapter 1: The Tomb of Akhentepi


Four years ago, a sandstorm uncovered part of a walled-in city less than a day's journey from the new capital at Peraten.  When diggers were sent out to excavate the city, they found that there was no gate into it.  An arbitrary location was chosen to carve out a passage so that the excavation could continue.

Among the sands within the city, diggers also discovered and discarded hundreds of bodies.  They also found that while the outer walls were smooth, the interior walls were covered in hieroglyphs.  These glyphs name the city Wati, and they tell of a plague of madness that destroyed the city; and of the decree of the Pharaoh Sekhtet to have the city sealed in order to prevent any remnants of the plague from spreading.

Less than a year ago, excavation on Wati ceased among rumors of curses and walking dead.  These rumors were encouraged by the erection of an obelisk just inside the makeshift gate, inscribed with powerful protection charms and dedicated to the Aten.  Soldiers now stand guard outside Wati's gate, only allowing the agents of particular noble houses to enter.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Epic Level for Pathfinder

I've always found the epic-level (over 20th level) rules for 3.5 to be a bit convoluted and excessively complicated.  With the higher power levels of Pathfinder characters, we can take a simpler approach.  By allowing levels beyond 20th, all characters can reach the capstone abilities of their [primary] base/core classes--so they are no longer penalized for multiclassing.  I realize that my Pathfinder campaign barely started, and I'm thinking a bit far ahead--but this has been something at the back of my ind for a while.

Character Level Cap:  Character levels cap out at 35th.  No level can be earned beyond 35th.  In general, this will allow most characters to follow 1 base/core class and 1 prestige class to completion, with a few extra levels for "dipping" (when necessary to meet feat and prestige class requirements).
If my Nefret Campaign ventures to these levels, then I will allow characters to progress through level 30 using the rules presented here.

Class Level Cap:  All classes cap at the highest level in their original source material.  Core and base classes cap at 20th level, while prestige classes cap at 5th or 10th level.  In order to progress to epic level, a character must multi-class (using the normal rules).

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Pathfinder Time!

There has been a delay in my intended Monvesia posting schedule because of an unexpected opportunity to run a Pathfinder campaign.  The regular Thursday-night AD&D game at the store where I work is moving to another night because of scheduling conflicts.  One of the players was bemoaning that she wouldn't be able to play, and she made an offhand comment that someone should run a Pathfinder game on Thursdays ... And I said "okay."

I've been wanting to run the Mummy's Mask adventure path for a while, but not in Golarion (the standard Pathfinder campaign setting). Instead, I wanted to create my own fantasy Egypt setting.  Adding Goodman Games' Lost Tomb of the Sphinx Queen and earlier Paizo adventure modules to the mix, I've got a starting point for a complex campaign world that characters can explore at their own pace.  I've just had to revise the backstories of all the adventures to fit my world (I won't be sharing any spoilers yet).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mundane Treasure in Monvesia

All treasure is special, but not all treasure is magical.  Continuing my series on in-game player rewards (see Magic Items, Titles & Land Grants), below are notes concerning the "mundane" treasures of Monvesia.  Though, let's be honest, what is mundane about a horde of coins from across the continent?  Or a religious text bound in dragon scale?

A Song of Sixpence

The coins that can be found in a monster's possession or in a hoard varies greatly depending on where that monster or hoard is encountered.  When dealing with the various coins of Monvesia, modify the coin results from random treasure tables as noted in the appropriate section below:


Monsters tend to possess the coins commonly in use in the region where they are encountered.  At the DM's discretion, coins from nearby regions could also be encountered.

Possessions in Dvergheim:
  • Use CP value for bronze gates
  • Half CP value for copper boars
  • Use SP value for billon fists
  • Half SP value for silver eagles
  • EP (bulls) and GP (dragons) unchanged
  • Use PP value for rhodite bears
  • Half PP value for platinum crowns

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Eliminating XP

"How many experience points for that encounter?"  
"How much experience do I get for this treasure?"  
"If I seduce the bartender, will that be enough to level up?'  
In my game-mastering experience, some players are so focused on the immediate reward of points that it drives a rift between them and those players who want to enjoy the game.  Over time, juggling exact numbers just proves to be tedious--particularly when a 9th level character is 12-points shy of her next level.  Yeah "just fudge it" could solve that situation--but how can you make sure you have been fudging fairly for everyone?

I like the idea of eliminating experience points all together, shifting "leveling up" to something session- and story-based.  In this post, I will be exploring and expanding on an idea presented almost as a footnote in the 5th edition Dungeon Master's Guide:
... Advance characters based on how many sessions they play, or when they accomplish significant story goals in the campaign.  In either case, you tell the players when their characters gain a level. ...
A good rate of session-based advancement is to have characters reach 2nd level after the first session of play, 3rd level after another session, and 4th level after two more sessions. Then spend two or three sessions for each subsequent level.  This rate mirrors the standard rate of advancement, assuming sessions are about four hours long. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Titles & Land Grants in Monvesia

A liege may offer titles as a reward for service, and those titles may also come with a grants of land--small at first, but increasing as the character gains prestige and authority.

Here is a comparative list of titles in Monvesia, including vague descriptions of their relative lands, power, and authority.  Generally, only sovereigns (rulers of independent nations--ducal and higher) grant noble titles as rewards.  Baronial and comital nobles may grant ceremonial knighthood--though typically not with land.
Titles are listed from lowest to highest.  Where multiple titles are included, the lower titles are listed first.  English terms (which are a mix of Germanic and Romance) are used for "generic" titles.
Please note that this list is a major generalization, and is not meant to be used for historical accuracy; instead, it perpetuates and standardizes several anachronisms common to tabletop gaming (particularly an American "understanding" of nobility).

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Magic Items of Monvesia

For every change you make to the expected setting early on in developing a campaign world, you have seven more to make later. Since magic items are tied to the very structure of the elements and creature types of the world, the items below have alternate imagery and/or game mechanics in Monvesia.

Crusader's Blade (Holy Avenger)

Weapon (any sword), legendary (requires attunement by a paladin or eldritch knight of the appropriate temperament)
There are six varieties of "holy avenger"--one for each temperamental philosophy.  Each deals a different type of extra damage to a particular set of creatures:
  • Avenger's Blade deals extra fire damage to fey and outsiders from the Hydrosphere, vitalist
  • Hospitaller's Blade deals extra radiant damage to undead and outsiders from the Necrosphere, altruist
  • Ravager's Blade deals extra necrotic damage to celestials and outsiders from the Heirosphere, nihilist
  • Sentinel's Blade deals extra psychic damage to hybrids and outsiders from the Lithosphere, idealist
  • Templar's Blade deals extra force damage to tulpa and outsiders from the Aerosphere, materialist
  • Warden's Blade deals extra cold damage to fiends and outsiders from the Pyrosphere, dynamist

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Factions of Monvesia: Crusaders & the Ninety-Nine

Time to go the other direction:  Instead of adapting elements of Monvesia to 5th Edition, I want to to explore how elements of 5th Edition might be adapted for use in Monvesia.  For example, the RPGA has introduced Factions into D&D organized playe.  Factions are major power groups that player characters can interact with, gaining prestige and rank--offering a chance not only of mechanical benefit, but also role-play opportunities.

In the past, I have introduced two faction-type organizations in Monvesia:  the Crusaders of the Temperamental Orders (detailed in an earlier post) and the League of Ninety-Nine.  As I have pondered this topic, I have considered adding an "Imperial Order" as well as factions tied to other races.  However, in the interest of keeping development of the world tied to the player experience, I won't detail any additional factions they become necessary in play.
Okay, so maybe that last part was wishful thinking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Monvesian Culture: Temperamental Orders

Temperamental Philosophy is a major factor of human culture, and orders dedicated to one of its six divisions can be found throughout the human-controlled world--including followers from any race or nationality.  While the Temperamental Orders are not exactly united, the organization within each order follows a similar pattern--and the titles used by them are shared in common.

There are three classes of Temperamental Orders:  Religious, Military, and Arcane.  A religious order may operate solely on its own, but is typically accompanied by a military order.  An arcane order under this tradition does not operate independently, but in tandem with a military or religious order--often both. 

Religious Orders

There are three basic tiers of leadership in the temperamental orders:  Prelates (who govern an order), Ministers (who attend to particular congregations and institutions), and Teachers (who assist ministers and attend to branches of organizations and institutions).  These are almost always clerics--but not all clerics who associate with the Temperamental Orders are part of a religious order (many are part of a military order, see below).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Level Titles and Tiers of Play

A staple of early editions of Dungeons & Dragon was level titles:  Terms that could be used by characters in-game to identify each other by level without breaking the mood.  Level titles fell out of favor, however--but were later "replaced" by the concept of "tiers of play" in 4th & 5th editions.

Tiers of play are groupings of levels that identify the overall power and influence of an adventurer or party.  In the current edition of the game, the tiers are divided as:  Levels 1 - 4, levels 5 - 10, levels 11 - 16, and levels 17 - 20.  Unlike 4th edition, these tiers do not have names, but are simply identified as "FirstTier," Second Tier," etc.

The text of the Player's Handbook identifies the First Tier as "apprentice" and implies the Second Tier could be understood as "Master"  ("characters come into their own").  Building from these, Third Tier is "Grand Master," and Fourth Tier is "Paragon."
5th level as the beginning of Master tier supports my theory (introduced in this post) that "Name Level" since 3rd edition has been 5th level.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Equipment: Robe Armor

The following new types of defensive non-armor are available in Monvesia.  The robes below are generally equivalent to light armor, but do not count as armor for the sake of proficiency requirements (allowing sorcerers and wizards to benefit).  Robes are donned and doffed in the same amount of time as light armor.  They do not restrict movement in a way to affect the somatic components of spell casting.
Robe armor is not always a good option--but does serve well any wizard or sorcerer with a low dexterity score.

[Light] Robes are standard robes which are purchased as clothing. They can range in price from 5sp for mundane robes to over 15gp for extravagant ones. Light robes offer no significant protection, and are presented here only for comparison purposes.
5sp to 15+ gp, AC 10 + Dex modifier, 4 lbs.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Monvesian Culture: Games

For me, one of the more fascinating additions to 5th edition D&D is tool proficiency in gaming sets. It is clearly the evolution o the 3.x-era d20 Gamble skill.  It shows that knowing how a particular "game" (as specific as chess, or as generic as cards or dice) works an help in social integration--beyond mere gambling, but certainly including that option.  You can use a Wisdom check to gamble (or learn a new variation), a Charisma check to win favor (or throw a game), and Intelligence check to comment on an opponent's strategy.  It is a role-playing opportunity, and I appreciate that it was included.  Games within games.

Games are played throughout the world.  The same game can be played by different age groups for different reasons--such as to learn problem-solving skills, to develop social skills, or even to win money.  The games that originate in a particular culture help to define what it values.  Here are some of the gaming sets available in Monvesia, and the cultures that produced them.  Each set an be used to play multiples games, and proficiency in the set applies to most of these (unless the story requires otherwise).
While each of the gaming sets below comes from a particular culture, these have all achieved wide-spread use throughout Monvesia.  These replace the gaming sets from the Player's Handbook.  Those which are direct replacements are noted.


Inspiration: Checkers/Draughts, Chess, Dragon Face, Janggi, Shogi
Replaces:  Dragonchess
Cost:  1gp
Weight:  1/2 lb.

From the dwarves comes a chess-like game called chadrak (shadraque in parts of Cuorria), which is played on a grid with two-sided tiles.  The grid is always square, but can very in size from as small 7 x 7 to as large as 14 x 14 (8 x 8 and 12 x 12 are the most common); typically, these grids are woven mats.  The tiles can be circular or square, each carved from stone.  Each tile bears an identical symbol on each side, painted in opposing colors:  red and white, red and black, or even black and white.  Whatever the pair of colors, it is consistent throughout the set--and is even reflected in the woven grid.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

History of Monvesia: Sixth Age

ybe = years before the [Divine Drajan] Empire
ye = year of the [Divine Drajan] Empire
The most likely "universal" date count.
ybk = years before the Kleimland
yk = year of the Kleimland
The dates as counted during my original campaign in this world.
The Sixth Age covers the entirety of campaign time--including those major events which directly effected the backgrounds of my first group of player characters.

Sixth Age / Aqueous Age

Circa 995 ye (Circa 5 ybk) 

  • During the short-lived Badenburg Rebellion, Rathbone I is killed. He is succeeded by his son, King Theodore II. Duke Harlan of Badenburg is executed; a loyalist cousin of the new king succeeds Harlan as Margrave of Badenburg; the nobles that supported Harlan are stripped of their titles, and the merchant families that funded him are massacred.

After 995 ye (Less Than 5ybk) 

  • The Duke of Waschbar and King of Vastria publicly disagree over the continued Verderben conflict. The Duke threatens to back out of the Vasterreich if the war continues.

998 ye (1 year before the Kleimland)

  • Theodore II sent troops to the River Kleim with the intention of annexing the Eastern Baronies region, including Kynnys, to the Hindland

Friday, August 21, 2015

History of Monvesia: Fifth Age

ybe = years before the [Divine Drajan] Empire
ye = year of the [Divine Drajan] Empire
The most likely "universal" date count.
ybk = years before the Kleimland
yk = year of the Kleimland
The dates as counted during my original campaign.
If the Elder Ages were the "Legendary" era, then the Fifth Age was the "Historic" era--it marks the time when written histories became more prevalent--and exact dating was more easily accomplished.  The foundation of the Empire marks the beginning of this age.

Fifth Age / Vacuous Age

1st Year of the Empire (998 ybk)

  • Foundation of the Drajan Empire.

    Circa 200 ye (Circa 800 ybk)

    • Birth of the blue dragon Oerloeg.

    Circa 300 ye (Circa 700 ybk)

    • First Senary Council, during which the [Imperial] Temperamental Orders were established.  In opposition to the writings of Mohas, these orders openly venerate the Saints.  24 "archsaints" are chosen to represent human history and the temperamental philosophies--including both Baltus and Mohas. 

    History of Monvesia: Elder Ages

    ybe = years before the [Divine Drajan] Empire
    ye = year of the [Divine Drajan] Empire
    The most likely "universal" date count.
    ybk = years before the Kleimland
    yk = year of the Kleimland
    The dates as counted during my original campaign.
    Human history begins with the fall of Prosperity The Elder Ages were a time of Legend--history and mythology are blended.  Dates are not exact, though a rough progression of events can be understood.

    First Age / Spiritual Age

    Over 3,000 ybe (Over 4,000 ybk)

    • As the giant races near extinction at the hands of the HMDJVNW they choose six humans--the sons of Honsu/Golai--to carry on their legacy as the patriarchs of the goliaths
    • By the end of the Giant-HMDJVNW War, the land of Prosperity has been transformed into the land of Desolation.
    • The HMDJVNW enslave the human and goliath races by psychological and emotional means.  They create the Taint to prevent human and goliath cultures from developing enough to become a threat--creating orcs and ogres.
    • Last of the serpent-folk dynasties of the Scalykind Empire; first of the lizardfolk dynasties.
    • Dwarven expansion leads to the second dwarven schism, establishing the duergar and korobokuru subraces.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    Legendary Monvesians: The Akhnaphar

    In the orcish langauges, akhnaphar roughly translates as "three [of the] north," commonly understood as the Northern Triad.  When Jostin and Ignatius had first ascended, a small cult formed in the mountains who worshiped the Triad.  Independent veneration of Jostin and Ignatius overshadowed the first iteration of the Triad, however.  It wasn't until this ult and Gygar were redisovered that the Triad came to be venerated together again.

    All three of the saints who are commonly venerated in the Kleimland were legendary heroes who ascended to sainthood.  While Gygar, Ignatius, and Jostin comprise the Akhnaphar itself, their stories, are bound with "anti-saints"--who ascended in opposition to the Triad--as well.


    Race:  Human (Honderreicher)
    Class:  Wizard (Enchanter)
    Background:  Noble
    Temperament:  Idealist
    Saintly Path:  Thaumaturge
    Saintly Patron:   Mekare the Archivist
    Sphere of Ascension:  Aerosphere
    Venerated by:  Reorganized Disciples of Gygar (Order of the Northern Triad), Universal Order of Spiritual Thought

    Born during the close of the Orc Wars, Gygar was drawn to magic as a way to protect those closest to him.  Using the powers he honed at the end of the war, he pursued the path of the thaumaturge under the tutelage of a dwarven Paragon.  While following this path, Gygar came to rule over the region of the river Kleim, calling his domain Gygaria.  He established himself as the strongest wizard in the land, and trained other arcanists. Among his students were:  Hippolyta, Novation, Ignatius, Ursula, Laurentis, Pascha, Constance and Christophe.

    Saturday, August 15, 2015

    Ascension in Monvesia, Part 3: Path

    Once a character gains a sponsor, he must reach 20th level before setting off on the path to sainthood. The main principle that a petitioner must follow is to be true to his chosen Sphere, and to bring it glory and honor during the trials. Each path requires that a mortal pass five tough requirements:
    1. The character’s adventures must gain him a specific amount of experience. This amount is 36,000 XP for most characters but only 24,000 XP for the Path the Sphere favors. 
    2. The character must complete a new quest to retrieve an artifact from his sphere of power. The quest for this artifact should take several game years. 
    3. The character must successfully complete a trial of specific value to his class and the sphere (see below). 
    4. The character must prepare a testimonial to his greatness, a combination of followers and a lasting monument. Eighty percent of the character’s followers must be alive when he completes the path. The monument to his greatness must be financed by the character, and he must participate in its creation by either adventuring for components and manpower or by taking the risks of the actual physical construction. 
    5. The character must complete a specific monumental task that will benefit his sphere (see below for details). 
    At the end of these steps, the character must return to the pilgrimage site and meet with the Saintly sponsor. If the character has failed to complete any of the steps, the Saint may set further requirements to be fulfilled before sainthood is granted. If all of the steps are completed, the Saint reviews the whims of chance. Roll 1d10. If a 1 is rolled, the petitioner has failed and is not granted immortality. He may request further tasks, or he may give up. If the petitioner is granted immortality, he may take a year and a day to complete his mortal affairs and then must leave the mortal realm to take one's place in the outer domains of the Spheres.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Ascension in Monvesia, Part 2: Sponsor

    So, you've chosen the Saint that you would like to intercede on your behalf in the process of your Ascension.  Now what?  Well, you must ...
    1. ... prepare a gift for the Saint;
    2. ... make a pilgrimage to a holy site of the Saint's Sphere;
    3. ... make contact with the Saint; and
    4. ... petition the Saint to be your sponsor.
    If successful, you will earn the right to proceed on your chosen Saintly Path.


    The petitioner must create a gift of particular relevance to the Saint--relating in some way to their history, personality, etc. This gift should aesthetically represent and/or include the qualities of the Saint's Sphere (which will become the petitioner's Sphere, if successful). The more valuable the gift, the higher the chances for the character to receive a favorable response from the Immortal--generally, it should have a value greater than 25,000 gp.


    Once the gift is prepared, the petitioner must make a pilgrimage to a place where a Saint of that Sphere may be contacted. This is usually a remote, hard to reach place with a reputation for dangerous hazards nearby. For example:
    • A tall mountain's peak (Aerosphere)
    • A secluded grove (Hydrosphere)
    • A primordial lava pool (Pyrosphere)
    • A forgotten tomb (Nerosphere)
    • A lost temple (Heirosphere)
    • An ore-rich cavern, untouched by miners (Lithosphere)

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    Ascension in Monvesia, Part 1: Basics

    I had established early in the campaign that the local saints, Jostin and Ignatius, were one heroes who ascended to their place as venerable icons.  As the campaign advanced, I explored their mortal lives and hinted at their journey to immortality.  I had used the Immortal rules from Basic D&D to "explain" their ascension mechanically; and I wanted the players to realize that sainthood was something that they could aspire to as well, if they wanted.


    While the Immortals Set rules for Basic D&D explored life as a divine being, the rules for achieving immortality could be found in the earlier Masters Set, and were later reprinted in the Rules Cyclopedia. It is the latter rules that I would like to adapt to 5th edition.
    Under the Pathfinder rules, I had planned on using Mythic Adventures to fill this purpose--but the campaign did not venture far enough for that to come up.  That ruleset has informed this adaptation as well.
    Nearly every race is capable of achieving sainthood.  For most, the process is commonly called ascension--explicitly following the rules presented here.  For "otherworldly races" (such as elves, tiefling, and the like), the process is called transcendence.  While transcendence has the same outcome as ascension, its process is somewhat modified.

    Saturday, August 8, 2015

    Creatures NOT of Monvesia

    In "Other Races in Monvesia," I briefly touch on player character races that do not [currently] exist in the campaign setting.  While some of those were ruled out completely, others were reserved for speculative purposes.  The difference between does not exist and will never exist is fuzzy--after all, halflings came to be an important part of the setting, when I had first ruled them out as over-used; similarly, half-orcs have also since found a home here.  Nevertheless, there remain some aspects of traditional fantasy gaming that I have continued to avoid.

    Having already learned to avoid saying never in Monvesia, my aversion to certain elements can still be rated:
    • Aversion Level:  0 - This is an element of fantasy gaming that I think may have a fit in Monvesia, but I have yet to fully incorporate it.  There may not be a need for this element in the world--but I reserve the right to introduce it at a later date.
    • Aversion Level: 1 - This is an element of fantasy gaming that I often enjoy, but I do  not think it has a natural place in Monvesia
    • Aversion Level: 2 - This is an element of fantasy gaming that I think is overused, and would like to avoid using in Monvesia
    • Aversion Level: 3 - This is an element of fantasy gaming that is hand-crafted for another game world, and/or has developed a very particular, expected culture that does not fit in Monvesia.  Such elements would require an amount of work to untangle that may not be worth the time {ex. Drow}
    • Aversion Level: 4 - This is an element of fantasy gaming that is poorly conceived and/or wholly redundant.

    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Character Concept & Party Bonding

    "You wake up and find yourself in a cell with three strangers.  The last thing you remember is being attacked by a group of thugs ..."
    "The bartender tells you that the hooded man at the corner table is looking for a few good adventurers.  It looks like three others have already found their way to his table.  He noties you looking, and beckons you over ..."
    "As a member of the local adventurer's guild, you have been given an assignment to work with three other apprentices ..."
    Just throw the party together on the first day, and they'll get along fine--each with his or her own agenda, each optimized to survive alone.  If the party doesn't get along, you penalize the players for not acting like a team.  Except, they aren't a team--they just met, and know nothing about each other.  While I have often use this method in the past, I would like to repent of my ways and move on.

    The system presented in FATE is a great way of not only conceptualizing characters, but also unifying a party.  So, I figured I would adapt something like it as "Step Zero" in the character creations process in my games of 5th edition.  To do this correctly, the entire player party should be present without having yet created characters.  Players should have an idea of what they want their characters to be, but should not have put anything to paper yet.  For the party to be cohesive, every element should be fleshed out together.

    Friday, July 31, 2015

    Taint in Monvesia

    A major element that separates Monvesia from other fantasy settings is Taint--the transformation of some individuals and communities into monstrous reflections of themselves.  Since taint is responsible for the goblinoid and similar races, I first touched on it in "Other Non-Humans of Monvesia."  I didn't really explore the nature of the ailment, however.
    Taint is adopted, in part, from Legend of the Five Rings.  However, unlike in that setting, Taint in Monvesia is not a result of personal choice or action--it is the result of public belief and perception.  Monvesian Taint is further inspired by the Taint from the Thaumcraft mod for Minecraft; as well as the Blight from Dragon Age.
    Taint is a "psychosomatic" disorder--that is, it is a mental condition that alters the physical body.   From a metaphysical, cosmologial perspective, it originates in Limbo (the Plane of Subconscious Thought).  Here, the subconscious minds of all living creatures connect; and a collective unconscious "shadow" exists--an iridescent, black and purple storm-cloud dominating the horizon.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    Measurement, Distance, & Cartography

    While born from my development of Monvesia, this post really isn't really setting or even rule-set specific.
    Should measurements and distances in a game be measured in terms that can be digested by players of a game, or by characters in a story?  While it would be nice to accomplish both, I personally favor the latter.  When determining your mapping scale, you should consider how characters in the setting describe the same measurements and distances.  "5 feet" is an arbitrar unit of measurement, and characters are not likely to have a tapemeasure handy when mapping a dungeon; a pace, howeve,r is roughly the same size--and is a likely measurement for on-the-go adventurers.

    Here are the terms I prefer to use in-game, with a few extra for flavor thrown in.

    Small-Scale Measurement

    finger is the average width of one finger.
    This is the common diameter of the average coin in Monvesia--of any denomination; approx. 18 – 21mm [dime/nickel/penny].
    palm is the average distance across the palm, equal to four fingers.  Palms commonly used as a multiple of fingers

    A hand is the average distance across the palm and thumb (a little more than five fingers [5 1/3]).  Hands are used independently of fingers and palms; they are typically used to measure heights of living creatures:
    • Goliaths stand between 21 and 24 hands (roughly 4 or 5 cubits).
    • Humans stand between 15 and 20 hands (or 3 to 4 cubits).
    • Elves stand between 14 and 19 hands (roughly 3 to 4 cubits).
    • Rakasta stand between 14 and 16 hands (about 3 cubits).
    • Dawrves stand between 12 and 15 hands (under 3 cubits).
    • Gnomes stand between 9 and 11 hands (about 2 cubits). 
    • Halflings stand between 7 and 9 hands (under 2 cubits).

    Sunday, July 26, 2015

    Character Optimization in Monvesia

    "Optimization" seems to be a good word for areas related to either the creation or customization of characters--and house rules related to each.

    Ability Scores

    The Player's Handbook presents three methods of generating ability scores:  4d6, standard array, and point-buy.  These methods have become fairly standard in fantasy roleplaying.  Of the three, my preference is for point-buy--which allows for both individuality and balance.  I disagree with the Player's Handbook in regards to the highest ability one can purchase, however.  

    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    Backgrounds in Monvesia

    After race and class, the other major aspect of character creation to explore is Background.  Here is a brief overview of how the backgrounds of the Player's Handbook might fit in the world of Monvesia--including some variant options.  The variant options are inspired by the character concepts of some of the players who first experienced the world.


    Acolytes are commonly connected to the Philosophical Orders--while often clerics, paladins, or eldritch knights; they could also be laypersons who studies the orders ways early in life.  Rakasta shamans often have proteges; while dwarves of any caste are welcome to study with the Keeperate before choosing a profession.
    James, a human cleric of St. Ignatius, replaced the incognito noble (see below) "Cain" after his death.  He was a devout servant of the Trickster's burning flame, having always lived a religious life.


    The roads of the Divine Drajan Empire are filled with criminals and ne'er-do-wells looking for quick coin at the expense of others.  Others seek out this secretive life to hide their true selves.

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    Monvesian Culture: Pracian Coinage

    Humans are not the only race to influence the greater culture of Monvesia.   The concept of money, for instance, is a dwarven creation.  However, money isn't the only form of commerce in Monvesia.

    Coinage of Monvesia

    The human use of coins was borrowed from the dwarves and gnomes—though humans use fewer types of coins than their dwarven predecessors. For both cultures precious stones (but not semi-precious ones) are also a monetary commodity--particularly for trade..

    Coins are not referred to as “gold pieces,” “silver pieces,” etc. Instead, each region uses its own terms for the common coins; some examples are found below.  Game terms (gp, sp, cp) are used to note relative value of coins.
    Every coin is approximately the same size: 3 - 5g of mass, and 1 finger (18 – 20 mm) in diameter (about the size of a penny, nickel, or dime). Approximately 100 coins, of any denomination, is equal to a pound in weight. Regardless of actual weight, a [small] belt pouch may hold no more than 200 coins.

    Thursday, July 16, 2015

    Monvesian Culture: Human Religion

    RETCON NOTE: The Senarian Calendar has moved to a new post.
    Human religion is commonly called Senarian--referencing the six Spheres and Temperaments venerated by the various orders, and original six factions to attend the Senary Councils. This religion is composed of several denominations, generally divided into four categories:  Ancient, Universal, Metropolitan, or Independent.  The structure of the individual orders is explored in "Monvesian Culture: Temperamental Orders."  Below, I explore how various orders relate to each other.

    Related image

    Ancient Orders

    Ancient orders can be fond primarily in Veldistan, where the Cult of Human Perseverance originally evolved into the philosophial temperaments.  These order are not dedicated to saint or gods, but to aspects of the elements.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    Languages of Monvesia

    Gothic alphabet
    Common Script [Gothic alphabet] in the Honderreich

    Standard Languages

    The following are the equivalents of the "Standard Languages" outlined in the Player's Handbook.
    • Common Languages of Prace - There are six (6) common [ie. human] languages, one for each human culture; all Common languages share the same basic script (though each may have a few alternate letters of its own).
        • Human characters, (but not including genasi or otherworldly humans) should select two common languages at first level--one representing their culture of origin, and one other.
        • Other characters should select one common language, generally representing the nearest human population; for genasi and otherworldly humans, this represents their culture of origin.
        • All player characters in a single party should share at least one language (though this does not have to be a common language).
      • Cuorrian ("Central Common") - spoken by Romance/Latinate people of the central river region, many elves, some halflings, some goliaths [aka. “Herzlander”]
      • Galtish ("Western Common") - spoken by Celtic people of the northwest region, some gnomes, some rakasta [aka. “Galtannian” or “Galtlander”]
      • Honderreicher ("Northern Common") - spoken by Germanic people of the northern region, some dwarves, some halflings, some rakasta, some gnomes [aka. “Ondrian”]
      • Notopolitan ("Southern Common") - spoken by Hellenic people of the southern region, some goliaths [aka. “Notopian”]
      • Veldi ("Desert Common") -  spoken by Persian people of the western region, some rakasta [aka. “Baldian”]
      • Voztokny ("Eastern Common") - spoken by Slavonic people east of the river region, some dwarves , some goliaths, [aka. “Tsarish” or “Tsarian” or “Tzarlander”]

    Sunday, July 12, 2015

    Dragons of Monvesia

    The game is called Dungeons and Dragons, after all, so I suppose I should touch on the nature of dragon-kind in the world.  The dragons of Monvesia follow a variation of the model presented in B/X, BECMI, and RC:  There are only 6 dragons, and they are not differentiated between metallic and chromatic--they are simply dragons.  There is only one species of [true] dragon, composed of six variations.
    A dragon may be of the same color as its father or its mother.  There is a chance, however, that a shared recessive gene carried by both parents might produce a dragon of any other color.
    The philosophical temperaments of human religion are associated with colors according to the traditional nomenclature of draconic coloration.  Rakasta, who do not see color in the same way that other races do, use an alternate naming scheme based on other precious materials.
    Any dragon may be of any temperament, regardless of apparent color.
    Innate Spellcasters: All Monvesian dragons have a chance of being innate spellcasters (as described on p. 86 of the Monster Manual).  
    True dragons can be found in Prace and Henjal.  They were unknown to humans and goliaths in Raviq.

    Saturday, July 11, 2015

    Experts of Monvesia

    Skilled vagabonds wander Monvesia for many reasons, any of which make them a good fit for an adventuring party.  Loremasters, gutternipes, troubadours, and confidence artists all make ta place for themselves in the world--either out of necessity, or else merely of desire.
    Enhancements to the class features of both these classes can be found in Unearthed Arcana.


    The bard is a product of dwarven culture.  It is one of two recognized arcane professions in dwarven society (see Artificer in "Savants of Monvesia").  The eldest bardic college is the College of Valor, which emerged in the warrior caste.  The dwarves' deeds in battle needed to be passed down, so that no warrior could forget the bravery of history.  The College of Valor has remained close to dwarven and gnomish culture, spreading among humans and halflings of the Honderreich, Galtain, and Voztok.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    Warriors of Monvesia - Men-at-Arms

    RETCON NOTE:  See also "Warriors of Monvesia - Mystics."
    Martial traditions can be grouped into two basic categories:  a formal caste of men-at-arms, and ascetic mystics.  The first group share in common, among other things, a series of fighting styles.
    Additional fighting style options for Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers can be found in Unearthed Arcana, including general and class-specific styles, as well as "underdark" styles.  The former link also includes enhancements for the class features of all three classes discussed below.


    The majority of fighters are Champions and Battle Masters.  These can commonly be found as heroic soldiers and officers, but these martial archetypes are by no means bound to military service.

    Among elves, the Eldritch Knight is as common as any Champion, and possibly more common than Battle Masters.  As highly magic beings, merging the martial and mystical arts is natural to them.  Any who wish to learn the ways of this archetype may study with the elves.

    Brutes (Unearthed Arcana) are commonly found as street thugs and gladiators, and not among the military orders of Monvesia--though they may be conscripted into formal service.

    Bannerets (Sword Coast) are mercenary and noble officers who are assisted by Battle Masters in leading troops of Champions.  While Champions and Battle Masters may exist outside the strict hierarchy of military service, the Banneret does not.

    Cavaliers (Xanathar's Guide) often stand alongside Battle Masters and Bannerets as officers of a noble or mercenary forces. Some may also serve as knights errant, wandering the countryside and offering their services as their conscience (or purse) may dictate. 

    Sunday, July 5, 2015

    Alignments of Monvesia: Temperaments

    The June installment of Unearthed Arcana granted "official permission" to abandon the traditional alignments of D&D. Of course, I'd been playing with alternate alignments for Monvesia since I started the campaign--partly because the alignments of 4th edition (the game my group started with) didn't line up with the alignments I was used to.

    Originally, I had identified 6 Monvesian alignments, each associated with a color of [Basic D&D] dragon (see "Dragons of Monvesia"). I started to use these colors to describe NPCs in the world.
    • Good (White Knight, White Wizard, White Witch)
    • Lawful (Gold Knight, Gold Wizard, Gold Witch)
    • Neutral - Balanced (Green Knight, Green Wizard, Green Witch)
    • Neutral - Apathetic (Blue Knight, Blue Wizard, Blue Witch)
    • Chaotic (Red Knight, Red Wizard, Red Witch)
    • Evil (Black Knight, Black Wizard, Black Witch)
    As the dominant religion of the world (Universal and Metropolitan Orders, see "Priests of Monvesia") and the planar structure (see "Planes of Monvesia") became solidified, these alignments became associated with philosophies.  As more aspects of setting became associated with each philosophy, they evolved into temperaments (complete with humours).

    Each temperament has direct correspondences and indirect associations.  Correspondences are direct correlations  (if it is Altruist, then it is the equivalent of good).  Associations apply to stereotypes and expectations, and are not requirements (not every Evoker is a Vitalist).

    Saturday, July 4, 2015

    Humans of Raviq and Prace

    Tainted Counterparts:  Orcs
    Temperamental Association:  By ethnicity (see below).
    All humans use the "Variant Human Traits" on p. 31 of the Player's Handbook.
    NOTE:  Humans should select two (2!) Common languages at first level, while other races only select one.  (see "Languages of Monvesia")

    Humans, like goliaths, emigrated to Prace from Raviq.

    Though the last race to come to Prace, humans have quickly becomes the dominant culture of the regions--much like a bacteria, some would say.  Humans came to settle Monvesia after crossing the Sea of Sand.  They settled first in the fertile lines just east of the desert (Veldistan), and later spread into the mouth of the great river (Notopoli).  With access to the river, they soon traveled northward, into elven (Cuorria), rakasta (Honderreich), and gnomish (Galtain) territory.  Finally, a few intrepid expeditions crossed the Granitsan Mountains to settle he eastern coast (Voztok).
    I have not yet had cause to fully explore the particulars of Veldistan or Notopoli.  They are included here for completeness sake.  I will likely edit this post further when those details emerge.  I will not force them, though--I believe that a campaign word should grow organically.  When I have a character interested in originating in one of these territories--or else a party has cause to adventure there, I will leave the specifics un-delineated.

    Friday, July 3, 2015

    Goliaths of Raviq and Prace

    Image depicting Mesoamerican warriors carrying their packs of supplies on their backs. Image by Jody Livingston.

    Language Analog: Pseudo-Semitic ("Nephite")
    Inspiration:  Ogre folklore, Qunari from the Dragon Age franchise, half-giants from Dark Sun, Book of Mormon stories (particularly the Jaredites, the early Lehites, and the followers of Hagoth)
    In the B/X rendition of this setting, I called this race [civilized] ogres.  I created a class for them that was an inverse of halflings.  When we ported over to Pathfinder, the half-giant adaptation from Dreamscarred Press' Psionics Unleashed was a natural fit.  When 5th edition was released, 4th edition titles went on sale, and I was able to pick up the setting books for Eberron and Dark Sun--which, alongside Mystara, are my preferred pre-fab settings.  In 4th edition Dark Sun, they had retconned half-giants as goliaths--the choice seemed wise, as that edition was already getting race happy.  When the player's companion was released for 5th edition Elementel Evil,  I saw that the goliath was adapted to the new ruleset.  Goliath was an obvious choice for this race in Monvesia--which had yet to be encountered by the players.

    Tainted Counterparts: Ogres, Trolls
    Temperamental Association: Nihilist

    Male Names:  Abinadi, Amaleki, Ammon, Corianton, Coriantumr, Hagon, Himni, Korihor, Lamoni, Lehonti, Liahor, Limni, Limhi, Mahonri, Morianton, Nehor, Omner, Riplaki, Seantum, Shemnon, Shiblon, Teancum, Zeniff, Zoram

    Female Names:  Abish, Amalekish, Ammoth, Coriantoth, Deseret, Hagoth, Himnish, Kish, Korihona, Lamonish, Liahona, Limnish, Limhish, Mahonrish, Merkabah, Moriantoth, Nehona, Nimrah, Riplakish, Sariah, Shemnoth, Shibloth, Zarahemla, Zerahemna

    Goliaths, like humans, emigrated to Monvesia.

    Thursday, July 2, 2015

    Rakasta, Leonin of Prace

    Language Analog:  Turkish
    Inspiration:  Rakasta of Mystara ("Isle of Dread," "Rage of the Rakasta"), Genghis Khan
    NOTE:  Rakasta refers to a very particular race in a very particular world (Mystara).  While the race I am presenting here is similar to those of that world, I am not trying to explicitly emulate that race.  I use the name here for nostalgic reasons.

    Tainted Counterpart:  Gnolls
    Temperamental Association:  Dynamist

    Names:  See Turkish Names; swap out sounds as detailed here.

    Along with dwarves and satyrs (commonly called "elves"), rakasta are among the original natives of Prace.  Rakasta territory is commonly called the Pridelands.  It once extended through parts of the Honderreich and Galtain, and included all of Veldistan.

    Sunday, June 28, 2015

    Gnomes of Prace


    Language Analog:  Chechen
    Inspiration:  Surface dwarves in the Dragon Age franchise; travellers/tinkers

    Tainted Counterpart:  Goblin
    Temperamental Association:  Idealist

    Male Names:  Batraz, Borz, Dikalu, Lom, Mayrsolt, Tawara, Vaharsolt
    Female Names:  Avarka, Kheda, Prina, Tabarik, Zargan

    Gnomes are dwarf-kin, and were once counted as members of that race long before the coming of humans to Prace.  Because they share many cultural elements, human migrants assumed early on that gnomes and dwarves were he same race.

    Saturday, June 27, 2015

    Monvesia: 3 Editions, 1 World

    Several years ago, I played 4th Edition D&D with a group of friends.  While the ruleset was fun, I kept mentioning (probably to their annoyance, after a while) that it didn't feel like D&D.  It still felt like an epic fantasy campaign ... it just didn't feel like D&D.  Our DM was getting a bit burnt out, so I asked if I could run a game for a while.

    They let me run a game from the Rules Cyclopedia (with Rage of the Rakasta).  Using the Classic ruleset, I built a complex world for them around their character's backgrounds and choices their characters made.   I came to call the known world Monvesia, named for the river which dominated it, the Monvesien.  We focused our early adventures on a small tributary in the north called the river Kleim.  A political intrigue surrounding the fall of the kingdom of the Hindland and the rise of the Grand Duchy of the Kleimland began to play out behind the characters--but their adventured quickly took them away from the ensuing war (toward the Isle of Dread, beyond the mouth of the great river).

    Having already incorporated the Caves of Chaos into the local topography, we took a detour with the D&D Next pre-gen characters.  The adventure was changed based on the players' initial foray into the valley, though the goblinoids who inhabited the caves proved to be resilient enough to return in short order.

    Our previous DM wanted to run a game of his own again, but didn't want to end the campaign I was running.  So, we agreed to switch off--one session would be his campaign, and the next would be mine.  In order to not confuse the players, however, we also agreed to play using the same ruleset.  He was going to be using a Pathfinder Adventure Path, so I agreed to update the rules of Monvesia to the Pathfinder rules.

    The edition jump, skipping AD&D entirely, as well as the early incarnations of the 3rd edition, proved to be an interesting and fun exercise.  New possibilities of explaining classes and races expanded the world.  I even started to incorporate Psionics Unleashed into the campaign--introducing half-giants ("civilized ogres").

    After only a few sessions, our collective personal lives got in the way.  Both campaigns ended without being resolved.  We would often talk to each other about playing again--either picking up where we left off, or starting anew.  Alas, it has yet to come to pass.

    But an amazing thing happened in the last year:  the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  In this new ruleset, we (the players of the game as a whole) have experienced two seasons of adventure, and await a third.    As more an more options for this edition are released--through adventures, or the Unearthed Arcana column--the possibility of resurrecting Monvesia in a new edition has become more encouraging.

    For the last few months, I have been updating my Classic/Pathfinder world of Monvesia to 5th edition.  I hope to present this world in pieces on this blog.  I will start with each race; then each class; then other tidbits of the campaign setting itself.  I will reference the necessary rules for each, and provide new rules where necessary.

    Thursday, June 25, 2015

    Delineating D&D

    Fully sympathizing with the frustration expressed by The Grey Elf on some time ago, I feel it necessary to delineate, according to my understanding (which differs slightly from The Grey Elf's), the various versions and acronyms of "the world's most popular role-playing game." These are the terms as I use them, and will be using them on this blog.

    OD&D, wherein the O stands for "original" not "old," was the beginning. Published in 1974, this was something of a rules expansion for the Chainmail game. Because of the packaging of some printings, this is also known as the White Box rules. Backtracking from recent nomenclature, this could be considered 0-edition. A retro-clone similar to these rules is Swords & Wizardry.

    Holmes (after its editor) was the first attempt at creating "basic set" rules for the game, covering rules for levels 1st - 3rd. Published in 1977, this was meant to be a compilation of the rules in a straight-forward format incorporating some of the new rules being prepared for the Advanced game (see below). After completing 3rd level, players were directed to the forthcoming edition. This could be considered 0.5 in recent nomenclature.

    AD&D[1e] was both a compilation and expansion of the original rules also published in 1977. Commonly called First Edition (or 1.0 in recent nomenclature). A retro-clone similar to these rules is OSRIC (Old School Reference and Index Compilation).

    B/X or Moldvay/Cook[/Marsh] (after its editors) was a revision of the Basic (B) rules and its expansion into an Expert (X) rules set published in 1981. With this revision, the Basic rules were presented as a game separate from the "Original" and Advanced games; this and following revisions in the same line are therefore identified as BD&D (while the Holmes Basic Set can still be considered part of OD&D). A Companion rules set was promised to follow, possibly completing the rules (see below). For the sake of assigning it a designation in recent nomenclature, let's call this one B.0. Retro-clones similar to these rules are the Basic Fantasy RPG and Labyrinth Lord; a retro-clone expansion of these rules is the B/X Companion.

    Labyrinth Lord includes independent expansion rules that mimic OD&D (Original Edition Characters) and AD&D1e (Advanced Edition Companion).

    BECMI or Mentzer (after its primary editor) was published from 1983 to 1985. Instead of simply producing a Companion rules set for B/X (above), the Basic (B) and Expert (E) sets were revised, and the Companion (C) set was followed by Master (M) and Immortals (I) rules sets. References in B/X concerning the Companion set were not met, and the game was revised for a younger audience. The revised Basic set came in an iconic box that has led to this version to also be called the Red Box rules. Because of the revision of the presentation, and the CMI expansions altering play at the BE levels, BECMI could also be identified as B.5 in recent nomenclature.

    AD&D2e was a major revision of the AD&D rules and first published in 1989. It is commonly known as Second Edition (and can be called 2.0 in recent nomenclature. A revision to this rules set appeared in 1996, which expressly stated that the revised rules were not a "third edition" of the game. This sub-revision, which incorporated the Player's Option and DM Option series and espoused psionic revisions from the Dark Sun campaign setting, could be identified as 2.5 in recent nomenclature. See HackMaster (below).

    RC or Classic was the last revision of the BD&D rules (see above), published in 1991. It consisted of a single rule book (the 'Cyclopedia) which compiled the BECM portions of BECMI (the Immortals rules were later revised in a box set) with optional rules introduced in the Gazeteer series. The starter set of this game bore the title "The Classic Dungeons and Dragons Game," and covered levels 1st - 5th. Please not, however, that the proper form is Classic D&D, never "CD&D." The revisions between BECMI and RC are minor, and this "edition" could be called B.75 in recent nomenclature.

    A retro-clone similar to these rules is Dark Dungeons.  Dark Dungeons is also revised and expanded in two, independent rules sets: and Darker Dungeons and Darkest Dungeons.

    Third Edition was published in 2000. It replaced both the Advanced and Basic versions of the game, but draws its identification directly from the Advanced rules--being the third edition that the revised second edition was not, but dropping "Advanced" from the title. Third edition was resealeased alongside the Open Gaming License (OGL) and a stripped-down System Reference Document (SRD), meant to encourage third-party publishers to produce source material for the game. After the publication of 3.5 (see below), this edition became known as 3.0; this and following revisions of the same rule set are commonly called 3.x.

    HackMaster (humorously subtitled "Fourth Edition") was originally a spoof of this gaming franchise as seen in the Knights of the Dinner Table comic. In 2001, its writers recieved permission to revise and expand the AD&D2e rules. It is similar to a "retro-clone," but produced in cooperation with the publishers of Third Edition.

    3.5, identified as such on the covers of its core rulebooks, was a revision of the Third Edition rules in 2003. This included a revision to the SRD, but not the the OGL.

    Fourth Edition was published in 2008, and is the current version of the game today. It is accompanied by a Game System License (GSL) that is more restrictive than its predecessor (the OGL, see above). This edition is commonly known as 4.0.

    In 2010, the Essentials product line was introduced, incorporating errata and minor revisions from the game''s first two years--these are merely supplemental books, and are not intended to replace the fourth edition core rulebooks. Since the Essentials series does present character classes differently, it could be considered 4.25 in recent nomenclature.

    The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was first published in 2009 as a reaction to Fourth Edition. Pathfinder is published as a revision to the 3.5 rules under the OGL--published by the company that temporarily produced the Dungeon and Dragon magazines. This "version" of the game perpetuates the OGL, but replaced the SRD with its own PRD ("Pathfinder Reference Document").

    HackMaster Basic or Fifth Edition was also published in 2009 as a revision of the AD&D2e-based HackMaster rules, incorporating necessary changes since the expiration of the publsher's license.

    D&D Next was a playtest that lasted from May 2012 - December 2013.  It was a open playtest of the next edition of the game, allowing fans of the game to contribute to the development of the next edition.  Early in 2014, some sources continued to use "D&D Next" for the final product, but this was inaccurate.

    Fifth Edition was born from D&D Next and released in 2014.  Officially, Wizards of the Coast did not use the determinative "fifth edition" early on--preferring, instead, to say "the newest edition."  I suppose this is the most accurate, as (given the above), the designation of 5th is somewhat inaccurate.  The fan-base generally accepted the designation of 5th, and it is the version of the game played in official events today.

    If you are ever confused by what edition of the game I am talking about, please refer back to this post. As new editions of the game are produced (or discovered), this post will be edited.

    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    Fixing the Basic Thief

    I have been running an RC game with a group that I normally play 4e with--to allow the DM time off to prep for our regular game, and to catch up with (cringe) WoW. Being that I cannot leave rules well enough alone, I've been implementing options, alternates, expansions and house rules since the first session--one player even has a Rakasta character (using the mini-class presented in the Rage of the Rakasta solo adventure). Another player went the traditional route and chose the make his character a thief.

    Back when I played Basic for the first time in the 90s (yeah, I'm a late-comer), I had not used the thief, so I didn't know what to expect. Now that I'm trying to run a game with the poor class, I am more acutely aware of its deficiencies. It's important to the rest of the campaign that he be able to unlock more than 15% of the doors in a dungeon and disable more than 10% of its traps. The player is getting so frustrated, he's on the verge of quitting the game because the rules are stacked against him.

    After completing two dungeons (Zanzer Tem's Dungeon and Castle Mistamere), it has become clear to us that the first-level thief is a generally useless character. Having come near death twice in each dungeon, I have already increased his hit die to a d6. This keeps him alive long enough to showcase his thief abilities. Not like there is much to showcase. Online, I've found two, promising solutions to this second problem.

    One, called the d6 Method, can be found here and numerous other places--so many places that it is hard for me to determine its original source. It seems to be a popular favorite. However, while it grants the player the chance to customize his thief, that customization (to me) does not seem to capture the essence of the Basic game.

    The other method with promise can be found...somewhere online, but I cannot find it now....The principle is to apply the character's Dexterity modifier to his character level to determine the level of his thief skills. For example, a 2nd-level thief with a 17 Dexterity uses his thief skills as if he were 4th level. Conversely, a low skill will penalize the thief (minimum "skill level" of 1). The other drawbacks here are: 1) how can dexterity help a thief hear noise? 2) players are encouraged to munchkin their Dexterity scores.

    I will implement a refined version of this second method in my RC campaign: Skill level will be determined by multiple attributes--
    • Strength for Climb Walls (aka. Climb Sheer Surfaces)

    • Intelligence for Find Traps and Remove Traps (aka. Find and Remove Traps)

    • Wisdom for Hear Noise

    • Dexterity for Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Pick Pockets (aka. Pickpocket), and Open Locks

    Furthermore, only high ability scores (13+) can modify skills this way. A thief's lowest "skill level" will never be lower than thief/character level. I'm also toying with returning thief skill progressions to their B/X roots--including chance-in-6 for hear noise, possibly using the expanded d6 method at higher levels.

    With this skill-bonus and the boosted hit die mentioned above, I think our thief will have a better chance keeping up with the rest of the party.